A Sustainable Dystopia

Computer keyboard with spikes inserted into each of its keys.

In this chapter, we (Casey Boyle & Steven LeMieux) offer a proposal for understanding our posthuman predicament through Kenneth Burke, the inimitable humanist, as an opportunity for engaging  an affirmative mode of becoming. First, we engage Burke’s staunch humanism through his dystopian portrayals of unsustainable technological advancement, and then we present a case for creating an ongoing production of becoming other-wise. Second, in place of a rhetorical tendency to define and place phenomenon, we wish to engage rhetoric through displacement. Swerving around topoi as an organizing strategy (via Burke’s use of terminological frames and circumference), we introduce dystopoi as a material tactic for self-interuption and dis/organizing bodily practice. Finally, we offer material proposals–sites of user experience—for enacting dystopoi in a series of corrupted keyboards whose designs frustrate but do not interrupt one’s practices. Our hope is that by reversing Burke and traditional rhetorical practice we contribute or, better put, extend rhetorical practice and Burke towards adjacent posthuman avenues of inquiry.


Written with Steven LeMieux (UT-Austin), "A Sustainable Dystopia" is a chapter in *Ambiguous Compatibilities: Kenneth Burke and Posthumanism* eds., Christopher Mays, Nathaniel Rivers, & Kellie Sharp-Hoskins


Posthuman Practice

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